|2012 Legislature Convenes|
Legislature Convenes for Start of 2012 Session
The Washington State Legislature convenes on Monday, January 9, for the start of the 60-day regular session. The legislature faces tough decisions regarding the State budget, which has cut $10 billion over the past 3 years. Prior to the special session after Thanksgiving the Governor proposed another round of cuts and a half-cent sales tax increase to address the projected deficit of nearly $2 billion. The legislature made some progress in the special session reducing the deficit by $480 million. It will be the task of the 2012 legislature to address the remaining $1.5 billion deficit, which includes $600 million for the reserve account.
In Washington State’s 62nd legislature, Democrats hold a 56–42 majority in the House and a 27–22 majority in the Senate. The ongoing budget difficulties will necessitate that Democrats take the lead in proposing cuts in funding for education, social services and health care. They will also consider whether to send a referendum raising taxes to the people.
Major controversial policy questions will also be before the legislature, including a bill to redefine marriage so it is no longer the union of a man and a woman. Another measure, probably the first in the country, will mandate abortion coverage in all private insurance plans.
The next few months will be a busy time for advocates lobbying to preserve programs and policies. The preservation of services which serve as a safety net for vulnerable people is a top budget priority for the WSCC. The preservation of marriage and preventing a requirement to cover abortion in health insurance plans are legislative policy priorities for the WSCC.